Hey, everybody, thanks for listening to another episode of Thoughts of a Random Citizen. Today, we have an interview with Mason Roberts, and ex-professional MMA fighter who turned life coach. That's what we dive into on this episode, along with entrepreneurship, mental health, and a few other things. Enjoy the episode.
Mason, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today, man. First off, I'm pumped to finally have somebody that is in my time zone to be chatting with because the 8:00 PM Red Bulls are just killing me. Thanks for that.
Also, I'm really excited to talk about something that is typically ignored, maybe shamed or neglected, when it comes to business and life in general. I'm really hoping that we'll be able to help out some men, even women, with this talk. Before we dive into that specifically, I know you have quite a colorful background, to say the least, specifically with professional MMA fighting, which is pretty badass. Can you walk us through how you transitioned from that into now helping others with their life goals and being a life coach, because that's a pretty big u-turn?
Yes, it was. It wasn't planned. It came from a career-ended injury, which put me into a spiral of negative self-hate, lack of identity. It led me to therapy and coaching. It took me on my own journey, where everything happens as it's supposed to. Although I loved fighting, I thought it was my life, there was something that always-- I was always looking elsewhere for the next thing. I was always very entrepreneurial. I was professionally competing whilst starting up a number of startups.
I feel that had done more harm than good to me. I guess, the way the world is, I ended up getting injured, which at the time I thought was the worst thing. It's led me to doing what I do now. For the first time in my life, there's nothing else I'm interested in. Whereas before, I could always get side-tracked with new opportunity. Somebody would have a new idea, I'd say, "Yes, let's do this," but now I'm just not interested.
I kind of going off on a tangent, but ultimately, it was from an injury and my own struggles and challenges. I've built myself up and I really enjoy the work that-- or my own journey. My coach said to me, "You could coach." I didn't think it was for me at first, but the more I looked into it, I was thinking, "Okay, I'm going to give this a go," and I've fallen in love with it.
Really. Well, speaking of that entrepreneurial journey of how you were always excited about the next thing, I know one of your founding companies was Hackney Cogs. What exactly was this? How did it start? Then where did it lead you to now?
This was a good one. Actually, I didn't have a startup before that. I was still competing. A lot of my friends were in music. Like international DJs, producers, and I felt I wanted to get in on the action. I had a startup. It was like Boiler Room before Boiler Room was-- Well, not before it was big, it was always big. It was a behind the scenes with artists. We'd go on tour with artists, we'd go to festivals, and it was a content platform, but this was before content was really a big thing. This is the early days. I'm going back like seven to eight years now.
I signed a partnership with a really big commercial TV station. It was the first time-- because it's underground the electronic music, and it was the first of its kind, I was like, "Yes, this is it. We're going to make so much money." I was excited and ended up taking on this really big space because I was building my team, everything was going well. Got this really big space in Hackney and it was really expensive, but it was really cool. I thought, "Fuck it. It's all about how I'm going to look. I've got to have a cool address." It was literally about two days after I signed the lease, a five-year lease, when the company I partnered with went bankrupt.
I was like, "Oh, shit."
Luckily, they didn't have any outstanding money at the time, but everything that we put on, like the rent-- it was bad. I had this huge space with no idea what to do with it. It was in the boom of co-working spaces. I was a creative at the time, so I was like, "You know what, I'm going to do space." At first, I got a few people in. Then because of my network, I was always-- People were always asking me for, "Do you know any designers? Do you know any coders? Do you know any photographers?" I was like, "Oh, I might just be onto something there."
I remember I had such an eclectic mix of creative and developers. I called everyone in for a meeting one day, and they go, "Why does Mason want to have a meeting with us?" I said, "Guys, we are all so fucking skilled. How about we sit our talents together and start an agency?" Everyone was like, "I like this. I like this." Literally, I was the sole one that was just going out, putting everything out there, doing the marketing, getting new jobs, look at tenders, and then it just kind of just blew from there.
Wow. That's incredible. You went from a underground music gig to just hiring out this massive space and be-- Wow, that's insane, man. That's entrepreneurship at its finest. [laughs] Well, anyways, talking about entrepreneurship and founding companies, it obviously comes with a lot of stress, and I can't imagine how you had to flip that last one on its head, but bravo to that. Everyone has a vastly different way of dealing with stress. Typically, they tend to be unhealthy coping mechanisms, especially with those new to the stresses of being an entrepreneur. What advice would you give considering this is what you do now-- well, this is what you do now-- to those wanting to find their best outlet or ways to kind of reduce the new stress of startups or just working in general?
Well, I think when I was going through my startup journey, I'd been in creative agency. I had a-- I'm not going to bore you with them all. One thing that was consistent with all the new things I was starting out, none of them were for me. It was always the next thing, the next shiny thing, the thing that I thought was going to be big. That wasn't a good foundation to build something on. Just because you thought something was big, that means, ultimately, I'm trying to make some money. I want to build stuff and I want to exit and I want to make money. Money is never or will never be the right motivator, because as we will know, there are certain people that have made a ton of money and still don't feel like the rewarded thing that they've been looking after or going after. That was my driver at the time.
Yes. It was not just the money. It was, "Yes, I built this and I sold this." There was sort of like a real ego aspect behind it. You're part of this whole ecosystem. You’re like okay, "What are you working on? What are you working on?" It's so easy to buy into it and I did buy to it. That'd be things I was working on. I had-- even in Travel Tech at one point. Loads of people was getting hyped about it. "This is going to be massive. This is going to be really good." There was a moment where I go, "I don't even enjoy this space. What am I do?" I saw a pattern of all the things I was doing. There was nothing I was really enjoying. It's really hard to stay consistent because when you're forcing yourself to get up, you're working 12-hour days minimum for something that you know it's not rally aligned with your core values.
When I say core values, people go, "There you go talking about core values." It's so easy just to get-- I guess, taking away from our values with things that we call responsibilities or goals. When we trying to push ourselves for something that doesn't mean that much to us, that causes a lot of stress. However, if you hit that and you find a purpose, a reason for wanting to do the thing that you're doing, it has a whole new dynamic to motivations to why we want to do it, and I guess it's a lot easier to be consistent.
Again, I've gone off on a tangent. To deal with the stress, make sure you're doing the right thing, because ultimately, once you put enough hours into it, sometimes you think, "I've put this much time into it, I've got to see it all the way through now."
Yes. That's so true. It's one of those things that it's easier to be or get better at the things that you're already good at than to get good at something that you're not good at. That applies with your abilities as well as your passions. That's a really good point. That funny thing that you said about, "Oh, there he goes about the core values again," that's what I wanted to say here.
A lot of people might be thinking, "Oh, I don't really care much about stress. I'm fine." Honestly, probably I fall into that category as well. Like, "Yes, it'll be all right." I noticed that something that you talk about is wanting to redefine masculinity as it was one of the causes of the lowest times in your life. Can you elaborate on that a bit more to those who may be prepared to kind of ignore or skip this topic?
Well, if you think about, I guess, the idea of masculinity when it was first formed, it came from an old-school systematic way of doing things that aren't relevant anymore. You already adhere by this you have to work hard, you have to do this because this is what we do. If you think about that logically, it really makes zero sense. I was one of those that would try and push myself and work as long hours. It is almost like a badge of honor. "I've worked 120 hours this week." That is not smart at all.
I work with many men that have burnout. I know everyone's talking about burnout. Burnout isn't just getting tired. Burnout can really cause a lot of issues. I say to people, "You want to change by choice. Don't wait to have a heart attack before you change your diet." People that do think, "Okay, well, I'm just going to work hard. I'm going to work hard for five years, exit, and then live my life." It never really works like that. Ultimately, that's your life that you're wasting.
That was what led me on my journey today. It's because I had my father who was just a badass. He really grinded and grinded for the family. At the end of the day, that's the only reason he was doing it. Then he got to a point when he was 50, early 50s, and he had the chance to retire. He came to me, some guy in college at the time, university, he goes, "I have the chance to continue working or I can retire now and I won't make as much money over the next three years, and I don't know what to do."
I said, "Just quit, man. You're 50, you've worked your whole life. If you have the chance to retire, take the time for you. Stop working for us. We're good, man. I'm going to do my life now, enjoy your life." I feel like that's something that people just forget once they get into that grind.
I think it's a ritual. I've got a friend and he's got two daughters. He's just bought a really massive house. Over the mail he goes, "This is always what I wanted, but now I can't stop. I keep moving the goalposts." I've done talks in really big companies and I've asked people, "If I give you the house, the money, the cars, and all the things that you're working so hard for, will that be you, would you be fulfilled for the rest of your life? Once I give to you all this stuff. I'll give it to you now." Very few people say, "Yes, once I get all the stuff I'm going to be fulfilled." Then what are you looking for? When does that fulfillment come?
That's so true. Once you get it, then you're like, "All right, now what? What's next?" Talking about mental attitude and influence back to the entrepreneurial side of things. There's a famous American football coach-- I'm assuming you guys have someone in soccer, or sorry, football as it properly is, or rugby or anything over there. The coach I'm referring to is Bill Belichick. I don't know if you're familiar with him. He's one of the best coaches of all time for the New England Patriots.
Players don't really enjoy playing for him, or some, because of his dictator-like coaching style, although he's won more Super Bowls than ever and he's a badass. What would you say to the people with such a tough attitude that can really turn workers cynical and bitter? How would the players in that scenario or just the workers maybe who aren't accustomed to this tough love cope with something from a mental health perspective?
I guess it's when they come out of that environment they actually see how toxic and damaging that environment actually was. For me, when I was in the fight environment, again, in the startup environment, it's only when actually I was forced to step away from that. I was like, "Wow, that really has left me with some long lasting self-doubt," like it beats your confidence up. It has these impacts that you don't see when you're in the middle of it. Like the saying goes, "The fish doesn't notice the water swims in."
When you're involved in the shit, you really allow yourself to accept it. Bit by bit, it's killing us, and especially us men, because we want to keep up. We've got this real competitive macho way of surviving. "No showing weakness. I want to be the best. I don't want to let the coach down." We don't actually do what's best for us. Internally, we might be screaming, "Slow down. I don't like this. This can't be good." But externally we're, "Yes, yes, I'm good." I find it actually funny.
A physio said to me a few years ago when I went to see him. He was, "How are you, mate?" I said, "Yes, I'm good." He goes, "No, that was too quick." He goes, "How are you on a scale of 1 to 10?" I was like, "Oh." He goes, "Take your time, I want a genuine answer." I said, "Probably about five." He goes, "You just said you were good. Automatically, you just said you were good."
We always do that. Why? If things aren't terrible, we think things are okay. We've forgotten what it's like to feel great because we don't. We've got a goal and we're not on that goal. The things that we want to feel good, isn't there. That feeling good is somewhere in the future and not in the present at all.
Slow down and just take time to really be with yourself, I guess, is what you're saying?
In addition to how the bosses and founders and the coaches make themselves more aware of how they're perceived by others, how can they do this best to have everyone go towards that shared vision or goal? Because, obviously, in the military, for example, you can't just be everyone's best friend or someone dies. How would you go about, in certain scenarios, being the coach that doesn't make people bitter or cynical while still having that same drive, for example, to not get someone killed in the military? Do you know what I mean?
I get what you mean. That's a bit of a tricky one in sports because I guess you've got a team to look after. It's not just you. Your decisions are going to impact a whole group of guys, and you don't want to let people down. There's going to be added pressure from that perspective. For me, it's all about communication. It's about hiring. Who you are hiring? Are you hiring people that actually want the best for your team? Say you're a company, are you going to try and mold them or, I guess, use your fear tactics to make them get the best out of a team?
That's not really ethical, is it? That's not morally right in any way, shape, or form. I think when it comes to team sports, I don't know, because even fighting, it was all on me. We trained together and everything else, but ultimately, when we got in there--
You don't have anybody behind you, man.
No. Again, when my coaches were speaking to me, it would be about me. It is was like, "What do you want? How can you?" It's a little bit different with the team. Sorry, I'm going off. What was the question again?
Oh, no, just how would a coach or a boss or someone be more aware of how they're perceived by others, what would be the advice that you would give specifically to that boss or that founder or that coach to make themselves veer away from that fear tactic into more of that communication?
I think it's more about what's happening in self-awareness, about how they want to be perceived. There's a lot of men that want to be perceived as this big scary dude. There's some that want to be genuine leader, they're okay to ask for help, say, "What you need from me as your leader?" To me, it's all about communication. We've been working with a lot of construction over here in the UK, and the same, it's all about communication. Communicate what your teams need, what your employees need. Make them feel heard because that, in itself, is motivating. That makes everyone perform the best. "My boss really does care. He doesn't tell me what to do. He asked me where I'm best suited."
So true. Speaking of football, and MMA, and I guess the military, how does a person's physical health attribute to their mental health? Are they one and the same or, I guess, should you obtain one without the other?
I think the answer is in the question. Health, we need to look at our minds the same way we do our body. Just like the body, the mind gets compromised. When our mind's compromised, we got to be ready to talk about it. For example, if you had the flu and you was in the middle of your flu, body aching, headache, stuffing, but you have to go on and pretend nothing was wrong. You was just trying to go through life feeling crap but not speaking about it. We don't do that. When we've got the flu, we tell people, "I've got the flu." "Take some time out, mate. Take some time out. Cool, you've got the flu, we understand."
It's different with mental health. If you're feeling anxious or overly overwhelmed or overly stressed, we keep that to ourselves so no one gives us that time or that space to say, "Oh, you're anxious. I know you're anxious. I've been there. Take time out, take a few days. Recalibrate. Come back when you're on point." It's all health and people don't see mental health as they do physical health because you can't really see the mental health. I've done a talk the other day and I asked everybody, "Would you consider sad, the emotion, as a mental health issue?" They said no. I go, "Okay. What if I was sad for a year? Is it then mental health?" They're like, "Yes."
No, every single emotion that we feel is mental health. That's just really different ends of the spectrum, it's on a scale. Most definitely, they all need to be considered. You don't have mental health without physical health, healthy mental health.
That's so true. Especially when you're working for a company or something, you can't really go in and say, "Guys, my mind's not really right today. Can I take a day off?" They're like, "No. Get your mind right after your coffee break and get your ass back in here."
I know you've created something called the S-P-A-C-E method or the SPACE method. Can you elaborate on exactly what this is?
SPACE was my own journey. It underpins all my coaching, my workshops. It's an acronym. The S is for slowing down, or stopping and seeking silence. All entrepreneurs will be able to resonate with that. They can understand the necessity for it. Whether or not they'll do it, that's a different conversation. The P is for perspective, because very rarely do we put things in perspective. There's always another way for us to view something that's causing us pain. For example, someone says they're going to lose their job. It sounds crap. But another way to look at that is this opens up the door to new opportunities. Perspective is everything.
A is for action because there's no change without action. Everybody wants to change. Sometimes people look for an easy way when there's just not one, so action is necessary. The C for commitment, consistency. You need to be consistent and need to be committed. For that, you need to be connected to whatever your goal is. That's why I was talking about that purpose and really making sure that the thing you're going after is aligned with your values. Finally the E is for energy, or emotion because everything we do is to receive a certain emotion, a certain energy. This is what we do. How do we get that? You can't just switch this energetic feeling on or off. We have to go through a process and that process is SPACE.
I usually do that with all my clients. They'll come to me saying, "This is what I want to achieve. I want to do this." I go, "Okay, but first stop, slow down, take some time." More often than not, they go, "Actually, I'm not really sure that thing is what I wanted."
Can you walk us through-- I think I jumped over this at the beginning there. Just focus on your background, what you do day to day with your clients and your speaking and all of that.
I've just been in Indonesia for the last seven months which was nice. I'm back in the UK because I'm going to have a baby.
Thank you. Day to day, I am holistic performance coach which means that who I work, with I help them perform both physically, mentally and spiritually. People say what do you mean by spiritually? It's understanding that I'm way more than suits of skin, living to work and born to die. There's so much more going on for us. Then as we recognize that and connect with that, the mundane day to day BS does not have that impact that it once did one us. We're in a better position to disregard things that aren't going to make much of a difference, that we are overwhelmed and really take this stuff personally.
I'm also the head of coaching and development at a mental health fitness company, personal development company called Bemeta. They've just asked me to join for shares, come on as a co founder because I've been quite early on in it. It's amazing. We've just secured one of the biggest contracts in construction ever. That's a forgotten industry. It's probably making more money than most industries, but when it comes to mental health or mental fitness, it's not on the radar. I run men's groups. I get men together, I do programs to help men connect with themselves and without having to change.
Everyone thinks that this work is voodoo or whatnot. When people speak to me they say, "Oh, you're quite normal." When you hear spirituality, there's this idea that it's some guy with, I don't know, wearing a white robe and beads and so on, but that's just not the case. That is not the case at all. Day to day, I only work four days a week, sometimes three, which it's nice to do that. I've been in that position where everything was about money and now I can choose. "Hold on. I'm okay. I don't need to work every day of the fucking week."
Yes. 100%. That's the life goal for everyone listening to this podcast probably, just to have that freedom.
I want to take it down to three days. If I can get by with three days, that'd be good, but I don't want to. I do enjoy working. I do enjoy putting my mind to it. That's it really. Did I answer the question?
Yes. 100% man. That's great. That's cool because I was actually going to ask you to elaborate a bit on that spirituality aspect of it because I'm quite interested in that. I feel like it's almost a taboo subject these days that people are like, "Oh." Or people think you're primitive for even considering it. How do you help people with that or ease their stress via that spirituality?
First, I ask them the question I said earlier on, "If I gave you everything you're working so hard for and you're stressed about, will that stop you being driven? Would that be everything you're looking for?" People say, "Now, actually when I think about it, no." What else is there other than all this stuff? What else is there that your body is looking for? That your mind's looking for? They say, "I don't know." Where do you start? That starts the conversation. There may be something more than this stuff. If there's nothing more than the physical 3D, then what else is it?
100%. Getting people to just sit within. It's so difficult because a lot of people who haven't even tried that spirituality aspect-- it is a part of everyone's life. You can ignore it but it's a part of your life. Probably a huge part that people ignore but anyways.
A massive part. If you really want to geek out on it you want to look at the relationship between quantum physics with spirituality, it's insane. If you want start talking about energy and vibrations. Everything is energy, everything is vibration. If you look at double-slit theory, they're now able to measure thoughts. They know their thoughts. High frequency thoughts like love and happiness, they oscillate higher than things like hate and anger. They're able to measure this stuff. These are things that buddhas and gurus have been talking about for thousands of years.
All you need to do is start watching some TED talks and you're actually seeing the narrative change, how normal looking people are actually talking about spiritual modalities but in a way that is more accessible. That's how I like to talk about it because, even with the practices that I do, I've been meditating every day for the last seven, eight years. Even the practice that I do, I've seen some people that identify it as spiritual and I'll be like, "Oh, no. Come on. You don't need to talk about it like that. You're just trying to sound smart." I can honestly say connecting with the spiritual side of me has changed my life without a shadow of a doubt.
I completely, completely agree. I had a moment in my life, actually before I started traveling where I was just getting into just religion. Not just specifically Christianity but all religions. Buddhism specifically was the other one. I started meditating and it almost freaked me out. It actually did freak me out because there was this something that I didn't quite understand that I really did connect with. I ran away from it for a bit. I was like, "I want to start traveling."
It's pretty freakin powerful and when you don't allow yourself to open up to that, I feel like it blocks you, which is what we were saying. If people would be open to at least considering that, I think it would change a lot of people's lives.
Yes, everyone wants to be open-minded. We all kind of think that we're open-minded, but not many of us are.
We have our idea of how people should be, how things should be, how the world should be, so we're not very open-minded.
Of course, with the confirmation bias, if things aren't really in line with what we believe to be true, we kind of reject it as something that's wrong. That's doing more harm than good.
Yes, and I feel when people call out, "Hey, you're not open-minded because you don't see things my way." It's like, "Well, wait, does that mean that you're not open-minded?" Because I'm confused, that's funny. Moving on, how specifically do you define vices and how importantly do you think it is to separate yourself from them. To have the best success and the best self?
See, I remember when I got on this path. I think, "Oh, does that means I'm going to have to stop doing this? Does that mean I'm going to have to stop doing those fun things?" To me, a vice is like what even is a vice? Is it a vice for individuals or because society says it's a vice? If you're not hurting anybody, you're not hurting yourself, and it's not blocking you, then why would you stop? Some people say you shouldn't drink coffee, why? You shouldn't drink beer? Why? I want a beer. Everything in moderation.
It's like, again, if you're having an internal battle about what you should and shouldn't be doing, that's not again spiritually aligned. Because being spiritual, I guess, is making you feel good within. If you're having an internal battles saying, "Should I drink this? I want to drink but I shouldn't." It's--
That's when it comes to a vice, right?
Okay, cool. Well, continuing with that line of thought of maybe not so great habits or just moderation in general. How much of a role do you see social media being in this mental health call it new-age crisis of just mental health?
With social media it's--
That face right there is classic.
That is such a really big topic, isn't it? Either you can use it or it can use you. Are you looking at things are making you feel unworthy? Are you looking at people in your space that are making you feel crap? Or you're looking at people that are in your space that are motivating you to do better? It's all about perspective as well. You can make it or get out of it what you choose. Unfortunately, it seems to be doing more harm than it is to be doing good. That happens from individual to individual. Yes, social media, it's not real life, is it? It's a business tool. If you're using run a business, then fine. You don't need to start getting bought into that web of falseness.
There are people that will post if they fly first-class, but you know they've had another 10 holidays when they didn't post because they're flying in economy. It's like, "What are you trying to put out to the world?" Be honest.
Yes, so true. Honesty is huge. I totally agree. It's something that could be utilized in a better way but, at the moment, maybe not quite there. That's good to know. From a mental health perspective, if you are struggling with that, just identify how you're using it I guess, right? I recently did an interview with Dr. Robert Yoho. We talked about and we talked about the role of prescription drugs in society today. I'm curious to what your opinion on prescription drugs being used to combat mental health would be.